A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

by Ernest Hemingway

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:22 am

pg 30 – “Then as I was getting up to the Closerie de Lilas with the light on my old friend, the statue of Marshal Ney with his sword out and the shadows of the trees on the bronze, and he alone there and nobody behind him and what a fiasco he’d made of Waterloo, I thought that all generations were lost by something and always had been and always would be and I stopped at the Lilas to keep the statue company and drank a cold beer before going home to the flat over the sawmill.”

Is this true? How do Hemingway’s words relate to generations before and after?
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Re: A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby Parlez » Sun Oct 19, 2008 4:00 pm

Because I don't know who this Marshal Ney fellow is, or what he had to do with Waterloo (though probably not the hero of the piece), I focused on Hemingway's description of the statue's surroundings, which I found to be rather bleak and lonely. That made me wonder if he was using the word 'lost' to mean 'obsolete', as in who remembers this Marshal Ney fellow 100 years after the fact? Humans have very short memories - what seems oh so important to one generation is 'lost' on the next. Our contemporary heros and villians probably aren't going to mean much to anybody 100 years from now; ergo, each generation is inherently lost to memory.
IF that's what Hemingway was getting at, I can see why he needed a drink! :lol:
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Re: A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby Lady Jill » Sun Oct 19, 2008 4:09 pm

I'll jump in here with some thoughts. . . First I read about generations in the dictionary which prompted these thoughts. In each generation of people there are different events, different ways of doing things. . .and truly they do get lost as the years go on. I think of the wars that were fought on foot, or horseback vs. the one of today. I think of hand letter writing of past generations that today is practically not heard of.

How about the good 'ol turn of the century horse and buggy days, with life lived in a slow moving happy way around families. There is a sadness that lingers with thinking of this and I believe that just may be why Hem sat down to have his beer with Marshall Ney. Think I'll go have a cup of tea with my horse!
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Re: A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Oct 19, 2008 6:31 pm

Ney was one of Napoleon's main commanders at Waterloo and some blamed him for the Napoleon's defeat.

My take on what Hemingway is referring to here is his Lost Generation had their Waterloo too which was WWI. Each generation has some profound event to deal with, usually a war it seems :-/ , causing them to feel lost.

I saw strong parallels to the Beats and how they felt lost after WWII. Also the generation of the 60's and the effect of the Viet Nam War and how San Francisco became an artistic mecca came to mind.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby fansmom » Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:17 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:My take on what Hemingway is referring to here is his Lost Generation had their Waterloo too which was WWI. Each generation has some profound event to deal with, usually a war it seems :-/ , causing them to feel lost.

I saw strong parallels to the Beats and how they felt lost after WWII. Also the generation of the 60's and the effect of the Viet Nam War and how San Francisco became an artistic mecca came to mind.
Yes, each generation--maybe most decades--has some catastrophe that disillusions, whether it's famine or the plague or the American Civil War, the sinking of the Titanic proving that scientific advancements won't conquer every problem, or the well-one-day-dead-the-next scourge of the Spanish flu, or WWI or WWII or the Holocaust or Vietnam or 9-11-01. We start (foolishly?) optimistic, convinced that we are smarter, stronger, better, than previous generations, until reality proves that we are no stronger, no luckier, no different.

Hemingway said, "I tried to balance Miss Stein's quotation from the garage keeper with one from Ecclesiastes."

“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. Also, the sun rises and the sun sets; and hastening to its place it rises there again. All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages which were before us.

Each generation is lost. Every human needs to re-learn the lessons of the previous generation.

So, what do we do about that? Ecclesiastes says that time and chance happen to us all, and to listen to the wise, ignore the foolish, "enjoy life with the wife whom you love," and to be generous to the poor. Hemingway seems to have tried to follow that while he was in Paris.
Last edited by fansmom on Sun Oct 19, 2008 8:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby dharma_bum » Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:37 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Ney was one of Napoleon's main commanders at Waterloo and some blamed him for the Napoleon's defeat.

My take on what Hemingway is referring to here is his Lost Generation had their Waterloo too which was WWI. Each generation has some profound event to deal with, usually a war it seems :-/ , causing them to feel lost.

I saw strong parallels to the Beats and how they felt lost after WWII. Also the generation of the 60's and the effect of the Viet Nam War and how San Francisco became an artistic mecca came to mind.

I agree with you and Hemmingway. It made me think that it isn't the bad cataclysmic events, like war, that makes generations lost, but the failure to fix the underlying cause in the aftermath and replace it something better. It's about the profound disappointment when change fails to take root. That applies in the micro sense to people: The Great Gatsby (Daisy), The Sun Also Rises (Brett) and On the Road (Dean), and in the macro sense to social movements. To me HST's Wave speech is one of the great and eloquent "lost" generation speeches:

"And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. there was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave... So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
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Re: A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby nebraska » Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:42 pm

It may be as simple as "nothing lasts forever", although I think all of you had wonderful examples and made heaps of sense!

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Re: A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby Buster » Sun Oct 19, 2008 8:22 pm

All generations were lost by something


He didn't write "all generations lost something" or "all generations were lost to something" (other generations?). Perhaps he meant that each generation has its own nemesis, just as each war has its own Waterloo?

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Re: A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:07 pm

Buster, I agree he meant each generation is lost to something, their own Waterloo because we are so blind to history. :banghead:

fansmom, I agree completely. Why is it we can’t learn from previous generations? We always think that the technological advances of our time will lead to something better but do they? The “Lost Generation” of Hemingway after WWI saw the promise of modern technology turn into war technology. Are we any different? Yet we still hope that our ability to invent new and better ways to live will help mankind. Is that false hope? Sorry… :soapbox:


db, the HST’s wave speech spoke volumes to me in the context of Hemingway’s Paris.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Re: A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby Parlez » Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:11 pm

Or, back to the statue - the image of Marshal Ney, whom Hemingway felt such an affinity for at that moment... Nobody goes into battle thinking, 'Well, I'm probably gonna be the guy who loses this thing', right? Everybody thinks their role in life is going to be, if not heroic, atleast worthy. So, aside from wondering why there's a statue of such a loser in the first place, I think Hemingway might have been musing about winners and losers in general, and how, over the long haul, destiny might play a part in a life being 'won' or 'lost'.
"Belay that! ...Do something else!" ~ Hector Barbossa

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Re: A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby gemini » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:18 pm

I thought that all generations were lost by something and always had been and always would be


I enjoyed reading everyones thoughts and even though I let you all do the heavy thinking here, the only thing I really get out of it when I first read it was "History repeats itself".
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Re: A Moveable Feast Question #7 ~ Generations Lost

Unread postby Liz » Mon Oct 20, 2008 1:10 am

gemini wrote:
I thought that all generations were lost by something and always had been and always would be


I enjoyed reading everyones thoughts and even though I let you all do the heavy thinking here, the only thing I really get out of it when I first read it was "History repeats itself".

That’s what I got out of it, gemini.

I think history repeats itself (case in point….our current economic state). And disillusion happens as a result.
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